Moving forward does not mean our past won’t jump in front of us again one day. Moving forward does not mean running or hiding from the past, it means un-handcuffing ourselves from it, dealing with it, closing it out, and letting it go.
Will we ever forget it completely? No. Will we close it out once and for all? Probably not. I haven’t. I have made tremendous progress, but this week, parts of my past have jumped in front of me and greeted me with a slap in the face. Maybe more like a punch to the solar plexus. Whatever it is, it winded me and I feel like I have been gasping for air all week.
My father, in his late 80’s and an alcoholic, needed my help this week dealing with a medical emergency. Gladly not huge or life-threatening, but important enough that I took him to the hospital where he was admitted for a few days.
In true alcoholic Dad fashion, everything was as complicated as he could make it. He had expectations and demands on how the hospital should be run and how treatment should be rendered. We have a large number of doctors in our area from other parts of the world, which did not go over well with my bigoted father. And of course, he refuses to wear his much-needed hearing aid because it doesn’t bother him that he can’t hear and insists that others simply speak louder, come closer, or communicate in writing.
My past jumped in front of me in my realizations of how painful and ominous a figure my Dad has been throughout my life. And even now, in my 40s, I am still working through ‘Daddy issues’. I still want to please him, I still want his approval, and I still want to overcompensate by being the perfect Dad and Step Dad to my kids.
I felt resentment and self-pity creeping their way into my thinking this week. I found myself making comparisons of people I know whose fathers were nurturing and mentoring while mine was drunk, absent, unreliable, and a public embarrassment.
I am glad though, that although these negative thoughts and feelings came knocking, and even hung out on the front porch for a while, I didn’t invite them in and didn’t let them stay very long. I asked them to leave then shut the door. They kept knocking for a while, but as long as I was busy with responsibilities and gratitude, I was able to drown out their presence and they eventually went away.
I can’t deny or change who my family is or how I was raised. All week, I redirected my thinking by saying things like, “Did I have to, or did I get to“.
By that I mean, when my self-pity would prompt me to say, “Why, when others had supportive, reliable, mentoring fathers, did I have to have an abusive alcoholic father”?
To which my healthier side replies…. “You didn’t have to, you got to. You got to be one of the guys who could endure and overcome an upbringing like you had and now you can be an asset to others who are going through the same or worse”.
If life had been more positive, and I had a Fred McMurry from My Three sons type Dad, or a Ward Cleaver, or a Howard Cunningham type father, would I be who I am today? Would I be able to help my own son overcome his insecurities and anxieties the way I have? Would I be able to nurture my step son through his own feeling of rejection from his own Dad who has essentially abandoned him?
Would I be the resource and fatherly figure to the young guys at work who are starting their first job and feeling nervous and insecure while the more experienced guys haze them in their first month?
Would I be sensitive? compassionate? empathetic? Would I know the journey and inner struggles of those with a father-deficit…. at a time when fatherlessness is increasing all the more in our culture?
I don’t know all of the reasons why I was chosen for this particular journey. I simply know that some days it hurts. I also am keenly aware that self pit and resentment are sitting, waiting to pounce on my pain and throw a bucket of gas on it.
I also know that God delivers on his promise to turn the bad around for good. And I know the value of gratitude. Even, no, especially, for the painful things. God can turn our pains into strengths and our messes into our messages.